Thursday, May 05, 2005

Vote Watski

So election day is upon us. Thank god, some might say.

I have to admit that I do get quite interested in it though - coming from a politically savvy family it was difficult not to be affected, especially when the house was decorated red.

"Daddy, why have you dyed the cat red?"

"No reason comrade, now finish reading your Socialist Worker"

As a kid, watching any TV other than news or current affairs style programmes was very difficult when my Dad was in the house. I'd come home from school hoping that he wasn't in so that I could watch kids TV, and then end up arguing with him when I got home to find him in and in his usual 'not budging' mood in his usual place on the settee. I'd go over to the radio when I lost the argument only to find that he'd commandeered that as well to listen to with his other ear.

Even the papers we had back then were information providers like The Guardian and The Observer - I adopted the Japanese way of reading newspapers back to front, the sport was my only respite. The bookshelves were full of Marx and Engels and The Morning Star was a regular arrival through the letter box. Most weeks Dad would also come home with the Socialist Worker - which annoyed my Mum no end, as she was quite attractive.

I always remember the Socialist Worker stands in the town centre, my mad art teacher was manning it more often than not and the front page would always had some derogatory comment about Thatcher and her policies. I remember wondering what would happen when their wish came true, would they just pack up and go home? Would their last headline say: 'What The Bloody Hell Do We Do Now?'.

At an early age Young Watski had somehow managed to convince Dad, through conscious decision or accident that he was a dead loss as far as following in the family tradition was concerned, which seemed to make Dad all the more determined to inititiate me. I distinctly remember one day Dad taking me to one side and advising me to read The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. Which was always going to be a bit heavy for a 12 year old.

As I got older and was eventually brainwashed by the constant propoganda, Dads politics became clearer to me, as did politics as a whole. I realised that Dad was about as far left wing as it got. Which also means that shouting 'you communist' at him in an argument wasn't as clever as it seemed back then, Dad probably took it as a compliment.

Our family has always been a very staunch Labour voting family as you can probably tell, even before the Tories ripped our local community apart in the mid-eighties both my Mum and Dad were card carrying Labour supporters. I was even made a member so that I could be reeled in when the voting got tight on certain matters. It was made clear to me from eye opening age that voting Conservative would result in my immediate ostracision from the family.

Dad was also quite high profile locally, in addition to being a NUM branch secretary at the local pit he was also a district councillor for many years and a subsequent chair of the council, which meant that the phone would never stop ringing and there would more often than not be some stranger in the house who Dad was filling forms in for.

Now, things have changed drastically. Dad is no longer a member of the 'Labour in Tory clothing' party, as he calls them, and actually stood against the local Labour candidate at the last election for the Ricky Tomlinson endorsed Socialist Labour Party. Which would have been a good idea if the local Labour candidate wasn't a high profile member of the cabinet and didn't have over 50% of the vote - and that's before the fact that the only celebrity you had endorsing your party played a fat, layabout slob on the TV.

In fact Geoff Hoon could probably drive round the streets of our area in an ice cream van shouting: "You're all gay" out of the loud speaker and still be elected with an improved majority. Which is what he does effectively, I guess.

Dad is not standing in this election though and as a result is very traumatised by the whole thing, he's actually got to make a decision who to vote for for the first time. In 1997 he voted Labour, as most people in posession of any form of voluntary motion did, he stood himself in the last election, so this election is the first one he's had to really make a decision about, even though in reality his vote will matter very little.

I can tell he's a bit traumatised by it all as he keeps sending me little political soundbites by text, he's cryptically telling me that he's not voting for Labour and he wants to ensure that I know the reason why. But what I think he really wants me to know is that he's not selling the family silver without having had a good, long, hard, heart to heart with his conscience about it, and that I shouldn't think that he's a bad person by doing so.

His text to me this morning just says:

"I feel like I've betrayed a brother, but it had to be done"

I know how he feels.

Words are one thing, actions are another.